Monday, September 19, 2016

19 September 2016
And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” Luke 3:10-14 (NRSV)

            Good evening, welcome. Today’s lectionary jumps from John over to Luke, Vs. 1:1-4, 3:1-14. The passage focuses on John the Baptist. Luke introduces John with a quotation from Isaiah, taken from a section that promises comfort and restoration to Israel. The prophet of old was promising Israel restoration after exile. Luke tells us the newer prophet promises restoration from a different exile. But birthright alone is not enough for this restoration; having the Law is not enough. This new restoration requires repentance and renewal. Renewal requires real change.
            Common, everyday people have come to John seeking renewal. In baptism they have, in a sense, recommitted their lives to God. What to do now? John offers three practical examples of what the fruits of repentance look like in everyday life. Be generous; share what you have with those in need. Be honest in your business dealings; charge a fair price, pay a fair wage; don’t be greedy. Do not abuse your power; treat people fairly. Be satisfied with your wages. Jewish tax collectors-and they were all Jews-were not held in high esteem; they could charge whatever they wished in taxes above what Rome required, and pocket the excess. They were hated, but they were wealthy. Roman soldiers were generally regarded with fear and contempt. Isaiah had said all flesh shall see the salvation of God; it is important to note here John offered this promise to all who came. 
            John ‘prepared the way of the Lord’ by pointing people to their need for a savior. Isaiah had said obstacles will be removed. Everyone will see. As Christians today we have the same mission; in a way we are fulfilling the ancient prophecy along with John. We need to evaluate our behavior regularly-daily is not too often-to see if we have been placing obstacles or removing them. Every unkind word, every haughty remark, anything that lifts us up at the expense of another is an obstacle for which we will be held accountable. Any act that would deny the grace of God to anyone because of age or race or ethnicity or nationality or gender or gender preference or anything else is placing an obstacle. So let’s make it a point to keep the way clear. Discipleship follows, not precedes, conversion.

May the Lord bless you this day and protect you this night. JRG 

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